Dabney Zorthian R.I. P.

Just came back from a glorious Mother’s Day Memorial Celebration of one of the most radiant, erotic, inspirational ladies I’ve ever known, Dabney Zorthian, mother, wife, lover, friend, artist, poet, rancher, mystic, muse, nymph queen, adventurer. I’d met Dabney and her genius husband Colonel Jirayr H. Zorthian at the Yale Tercentennial in 2000. In a sea of black and grey pinstriped suits, we were the only colorfully attired alumni,. Thus we were drawn to each other like tropical birds in a flock of pigeons. Soon my whole Bonobo Gang and I got swept up into the Zorthian World of fine art, communal celebration and breathtaking, myth-infused nude dance high in the fertile hills of Altadena.

From “Limbs” by Dabney Zorthian


You can see some of Jirayr’s erotic art, including his masterpiece “The Awakening,” and read more about Jirayr and Dabney Zorthian and the marvelous, breathtaking nymphs in “Nude for Zorbacchus” and “Zorthian and Yale” The latter was a Speakeasy Gallery tribute to Jirayr who had passed away the year before at the seasoned age of 93, attributing his longevity to red wine, art and being surrounded by beautiful nude female models (the nymphs!) at least once a year. But perhaps the most vital source of his power was his extraordinary wife Dabney.Jirayr was larger-than-life, always challenging the people around him to be better, sharper, more creative, more productive. Dabney balanced out Jirayr’s tough love with her enthusiastic, often ecstatic acceptance of you for who you were. She fairly beamed joyous, positive energy, strung words of praise together like sparkling bohemian crystal beads, and had that knack for making each and every one of hundreds of individuals in her life feel like the most marvelous, brilliant and important person in the world.

This last talent of Dabney’s was evident in the many passionate personal tributes from relatives, fellow artists, models, lovers, neighbors and friends that poured forth today in the mid-May Altadena sunshine. It was fitting that she left us in May, the season of the legendary Zorthian Primaveras, and that she gave us this *excuse* to get together, dance, play a little and enjoy the hills and the community in her memory.

I feel so sad that I’ll never be able to talk with Dabney Zorthian again (though I’m sure I’ll see her in my dreams). But the way she lived her life and the way she let it go demands that I celebrate, not mourn. She was always celebrating.


Dabney Zorthian (center) and I with our mutual attorney John Burton at the “Zorthian & Yale” Art Salon at the Speakeasy

I last saw Dabney alive two weeks ago at a showing of her photographs of nudes frolicking in the wilds of her backyard. She looked luminous, sensuous and happy. She delivered a powerful poem that she had written in a voice that thundered through our souls. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of months before, and she had elected not to do chemotherapy or anything “heroic.” She was living life to its natural, graceful fullest, as always. She didn’t want to go out surrounded by a mess of tubes and medical machinery. She wanted to go out surrounded by beauty, art, nature, laughter and love. And that is exactly what she did.

Thank you, Dabney Zorthian. You are the light.

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